Skip to main content

What's Up Magazine

Meet The Artist: Photographer Lenny Burton

Jul 02, 2018 12:00AM ● By Brian Saucedo

By James Houck 

This spring, What’s Up? Media continued its artistic and collaborative endeavor with the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County with our quarterly art exhibit, themed “Land & Sea,” on display in the Power Technology Center in Annapolis. The exhibit featured local paintings, drawings, and photography. 

During the exhibit’s opening reception in April, photographer Lenny Burton was honored as Best in Show for his work titled Dawn Workboat. Artist Florita Washington (a previous winner in past shows) was named Best in Show Runner-Up for her work, Creatures of the Sea. We caught up with Lenny in the midst of a photo shoot he was orchestrating in Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, a favorite location of his to capture wildlife. We discussed his background and approach to photography in this Meet the Artist Q&A. 

When did you first develop a passion for photography and what was the first inkling that you felt inspired to really try your hand at it artistically?

I began my interest in photography at the tender age of eight or 10, when a favorite aunt and uncle gave me a little Brownie Hawkeye camera for my birthday. I photographed intermittently throughout my younger years, but in my 20s, I began to take more interest in the medium, though not so much from an artistic standpoint. I was basically a snap-shooter for a lot of years. Later in my life, I began to take my work more seriously, built darkrooms in my first two houses, and completed the whole process from shooting to processing film to printing in a wet darkroom. In those days, I worked largely in black-and-white film, shooting with 35mm and then medium format cameras. I resisted digital photography for a number of years and, finally, about
six years ago, made the switch, and I really love it. I shoot with Canon equipment. At about the same time, I began to pursue nature and wildlife photography centered in the greater Chesapeake Bay region, and it quickly developed into a passion for me. 

What is your approach to choosing subject matter and how best to capture it?

I spend a lot time in nature observing, studying, and photographing the flora and fauna in the bay region, and I’m constantly learning new things about the way animals and plants thrive or don’t in nature, and the reasons behind it. I spend a huge amount of time just watching an animal and waiting for that decisive moment, as Cartier Bresson termed it, when everything comes together and I know I’ve made a good photograph. And during that time, I go into almost a Zen state where the only thing on my mind and in my consciousness is me and my subject...the rest of the world just ceases to exist.

Do you have any “golden rules” that you abide by regarding your work?

I don’t follow any particular rules when I’m photographing, other than basic rules of composition and exposure, and what is pleasing to the eye, particularly to my eye. I look at photographs taken by others all the time and try to think why that photograph is appealing to me, or is not, and how I might choose to photograph that subject differently. Not as a criticism of the artist, but as a learning tool for myself. I study both the photographers of the past as well as contemporary artists, including many very talented friends who inspire me all the time. I think I learn something from all of them, and it continues to make me a better photographer, and to be more critical of my own work. Not to mention just enjoying the visual pleasure these works bring me.

When did you first connect with the Arts Council and how has your role with the organization grown over the years?

I am a very new member of the Arts Council, and this Land and Sea Show conducted by the Arts Council and What’s Up? Media is the first juried show I’ve ever entered. A very good friend, and very talented photographer, encouraged me to enter, and shepherded me through the process. I was thrilled to have a couple of my works selected for the show, and to be voted Best in Show was not even a part of my thought processes. There were works by so many talented artists in this show, and I was able to spend
some time looking at each piece.

What advice do you offer to budding artists?

To any photographer just starting out, I would offer a couple of pieces of advice. First, learn your craft well, learn how your equipment works and what you can do with it. There’s nothing more frustrating than being out in the field, finding a great subject, and then not being able to bring it to fruition because you don’t know how to make the adjustments you need to make to capture the photograph you want. The other bit of advice is to get out there and shoot, shoot, and shoot some more. Try different subjects, people, architecture, nature, etc., until you find something that grabs you, and then go after it with a passion.